Undercover video shows alleged worker rights violations at Apple supplier

Posted:
in General Discussion edited June 2015
Apple is once again in the crosshairs of a major media outlet over supposed worker rights abuse, this time with supplier Pegatron caught on undercover video questionable treatment of workers at an iPhone 6 factory.


Factory workers at unspecified Apple supplier. | Source: Apple


In a hyped expos? aired Thursday night, BBC One reports multiple instances of what it refers to as "poor treatment" of workers on a Pegatron production line tasked with assembling Apple's latest iPhone 6 handset. The broadcast is the latest in a long line of reports concerning worker rights at factories in Apple's massive overseas supply chain, most of which saddle Apple with the blame for lacking proper oversight.

The BBC Panorama investigation put embeds with hidden cameras to work at Pegatron's iPhone factory, who quickly found inconsistencies with Apple's promised safeguards outlined in its Supplier Responsibility report (PDF download). Undercover reporters discovered numerous infractions, including illegal ID card confiscation, excessive working hours, poor living conditions and underage workers.

From the clips provided, it appears the most egregious breaches involve long working hours. According to Apple standards, overtime is voluntary for workers at its supplier factories, though BBC reporters found extra work was built in to their contracts.

"Every time I got back to the dormitories, I wouldn't want to move," said one reporter whose longest shift was 16 hours. "Even if I was hungry I wouldn't want to get up to eat. I just wanted to lie down and rest. I was unable to sleep at night because of the stress."


Supplier work-hour compliance according to Apple data.


For its part, Apple championed its ongoing response to labor issues in China, a country known for its dubious treatment of workers as seen through the lens of Westerners.

"We are aware of no other company doing as much as Apple to ensure fair and safe working conditions," Apple said in a statement. "We work with suppliers to address shortfalls, and we see continuous and significant improvement, but we know our work is never done."

Pegatron has been in the news before for allegedly breaking China's labor regulations. Last year, labor rights watchdog China Labor Group discovered wage and safety violations at multiple plants operated by the iPhone and iPad partner supplier. Like the BBC's investigation, CLW saw workweeks that often exceed Apple's specified 60-hour limit, as well as ID card confiscation.

"Worker safety and well-being are our top priorities. We set very high standards, conduct rigorous training for managers and workers, and have external auditors regularly visiting our facilities to find areas for improvement," a statement said.

Moving south, the BBC visited Bangka island in Indonesia to check on metal ore collectors who gather tin and other minerals to sell to smelters on Apple's list of suppliers. Children were seen digging out tin ore by hand under unsafe conditions that could potentially lead to deadly landslides.

In a Supplier Responsibility report earlier this year, Apple said it planned to crack down on conflict minerals, especially those sourced from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, by releasing a quarterly report (PDF download) listing supplier smelters.


Graphical plot of Apple's supply chain by region.


As AppleInsider reported in February, the electronics industry as a whole is responsible for over half of the world's tantalum consumption, but it is not a major consumer of tin, tungsten and gold. Without substantial buying power companies like Apple have little sway with smelters or collectors of those minerals.

"The simplest course of action would be for Apple to unilaterally refuse any tin from Indonesian mines. That would be easy for us to do and would certainly shield us from criticism," Apple said in regard to Bangka. "But that would also be the lazy and cowardly path, since it would do nothing to improve the situation. We have chosen to stay engaged and attempt to drive changes on the ground."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 83
    I actually watched a little of the BBC show. The presenter was hugely bias against Apple and conveniently left out facts such as the companies involved manufacture items for other companys. Apple is trying to improve conditions but there is only so much that can be done, and it should not always be apples responsibility.
  • Reply 2 of 83
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    The health and safety exam clip was pretty shocking, just telling them the answers.

    I wonder if Apple could install cameras at the factory and have people back in California monitoring them 24/7 for violations.
  • Reply 3 of 83
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,743member

    The Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation is making a pathetic attempt to hold Apple responsible for what happens in foreign countries and with foreign suppliers and contractors. Things that Apple is not directly responsible for.

     

    Apple obviously has strict guidelines for their suppliers to follow, and Apple does what it can do, but it can only do so much of course. Apple does not have the power to change foreign cultures and foreign companies. 

     

    And working 16 hours? Big deal. I've worked longer than that in the past. If that's the most serious issue, then this is not a big deal at all.

     

    If anybody has any problems with worker treatment in China, then take it up with the Chinese government and Chinese companies. Don't waste other people's time with hypocritical, liberal nonsense.

  • Reply 4 of 83
    Apple is the favorite whipped boy for these media outlets. Never any other company. This is all about grabbing eyeballs. Again. Really quite despicable on the part of the BBC. I'd given them more credit. That ends as of now.
  • Reply 5 of 83
    zabazaba Posts: 226member
    In the pursuit of profit many blind eyes are turned. This is the reality. Cheap labour creates a bigger profit margin. To improve this is not about laying down rules and policing them, it's about changing the culture of exploitation and labour camps and this will cost adding extra dollars to the cost of products as shareholders won't sacrifice profit for ethics (ever) it's wether we want to stop buying or pay more.
  • Reply 6 of 83
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,679member

    Personally no company should be responsible for watching over another companies business practices. The problem is the way China handle this, you can complain to the government about companies who do not treat their employees right and the government does nothing about and everyone know it. So instead of going after a government who can careless they go after the companies who have more to loose. To make things worse the Chinese government caught on to this, they created labor laws and when they are told of this stuff they do not call the company violated the rules, they call the non-Chinese company using this company and tell them they need to fix the issue. It is just blackmail and forces the non-Chinese company to pay higher labor costs to make the problem go away.

     

    You see this no where else in the world, You do not have US company auditing other US companies for labor violation our government deals with labor issue and leave the companies who use them out of the matter.

  • Reply 7 of 83
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  • Reply 8 of 83

    Although the BBC is not funded by advertisement, it is worth reminding everybody that they still have targets for their articles, shows and radio stations.

     

    This is yet another sad attempt at grabbing numbers by targeting Apple.

     

    Apple has done more than any other company to help with Chinese labour. They have gone far and beyond what they need to do.

     

    Reading their articles over the past 3 years on their technology section has made it clear to me the BBC is very, very biased. 

     

    Particularly with their lead technology correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones, who's articles are always anti-Apple and pro Android.

     

    My dislike for the BBC only grows.

  • Reply 9 of 83
    sacto joe wrote: »
    Apple is the favorite whipped boy for these media outlets. Never any other company. This is all about grabbing eyeballs. Again. Really quite despicable on the part of the BBC. I'd given them more credit. That ends as of now.
    Apple is the most valuable company in the world and so is a legitimate target no matter what competitors are doing.
  • Reply 10 of 83

    So Apple has no blame in this? Apple is the Obama of business. 

     

    Would your feelings still be the same if it was a company owned by the Koch Bros. - no need to answer, I already know. 

  • Reply 11 of 83
    I am a huge fan of the BBC and they are a fantastic organisation but I have to admit they are seriously biased against Apple. Up until a few years ago their coverage of technology was pretty balanced - even pro Apple. But something happened (I guess a personality change in the staff) and the coverage has become increasingly anti. It reached a point during the summer where I submitted a couple of complaints highlighting, with date referenced evidence, where their coverage was unfairly targeting Apple - this seemed to at least moderate subsequent behaviour for a short period. The the anti-Apple rhetoric reached a peak during the iPhone 6 release where any negative stories were put on their news app immediately and then left up for extended periods - even when they proved to have no basis such as the bend gate - but positive elements such as the amazing rate of take-up or their popularity where not mentioned. Issues were never put in context by providing a percentage of the user base affected and when sensationalist stories were posted they never issued retractions or clarifications when they turned out to be unfounded. I strongly recommend that if you feel the programme does not offer a balanced view that you complete an online complaint (just search for bbc complaint) as they have to investigate and respond to all submissions as a UK taxpayer funded organisation. It is very disappointing that they seem to have a biased agenda and it does their otherwise excellent reputation no good to act is this way.
  • Reply 12 of 83
    markbriton wrote: »
    Apple is the most valuable company in the world and so is a legitimate target no matter what competitors are doing.

    I agree but I think a more accurate statement is it has the most mindshare, even though one could easily argue that mindshare is the true value a company holds (just look at Amazon's P/E). Even when it was just a fraction of it's current value and far below many companies that exist today (and some that don't) eyes were still on Apple to see what they were doing. And rightly so, as evident by their current market position.
  • Reply 13 of 83
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,743member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by MazeCookie View Post

     

    My dislike for the BBC only grows.


     

    The BBC belongs to a category of stations that ranks among the lowest in the world.

     

    That category is tax payer funded TV stations that operate under a force pay license model. The BBC does not need advertising revenue, as everybody is forced to subscribe. It is politically biased, and everybody must fund it, even if they don't want to.

     

    Imagine if everybody in the US were all of a sudden forced to pay over $200 a year to fund a state TV station, and you couldn't opt out of it! You have to subscribe to it for life, until you drop dead! Every year, they would steal money from your pocket.

     

    The BBC license rate was about $228 last year. That is totally outrageous, and nobody should have a gun held to their head, forcing them to pay for biased content that they might not want at all.

     

    The BBC is a joke, and has been a joke for a long time now.

  • Reply 14 of 83
    Reading their articles over the past 3 years on their technology section has made it clear to me the BBC is very, very biased. 

    Particularly with their lead technology correspondent,
    Rory Cellan-Jones, who's articles are always anti-Apple and pro Android.


    My dislike for the BBC only grows.

    [/quote]

    Mazecookie is absolutely correct. For whatever reason the BBC technology editorial team are unable to provide objective coverage of Apple. The last 6 mo this have been particularly bad and urge everyone to search for the bbc complaints website and fill out an online complaint form if you feel that their coverage is not impartial and balanced.
  • Reply 15 of 83
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,464member

    Round two. Cue Mike Daisey. I really don’t think people are so stupid as to believe Apple is the only one with this problem (well, the retarded troll army does but that’s to be expected). You don’t have to be very smart to know that EVERYTHING is made in China these days.

  • Reply 16 of 83
    It was a really interesting documentary and since Apple sets guidelines for its supply chain as part of its corporate image, it was entirely valid for the BBC to put the test. Obviously it found its suppliers and manufactures had not met them. The question is really how much are these guidelines worth and whether they have an effect or if they are a veneer for people to feel better about the products they are buying. Corporate social responsibility is a bit of a scam. There is a certain amount of irony in seeing that the most productive form of capitalism on earth has happened in a communist country where it's populace has little political and personal rights. It was sad to see people living and working like battery hens to make a telephone. I question if most Americans would want the same for their own workers.
  • Reply 17 of 83
    Not what I expected from one of the biggest tax cheats of any company that trades in the UK.

    Amazing what people will do to make an extra dollar. Apple are indeed rotten.
  • Reply 18 of 83
    apple ][ wrote: »
    mazecookie wrote: »
     
    <span style="line-height:1.4em;">My dislike for the BBC only grows.</span>

    The BBC belongs to a category of stations that ranks among the lowest in the world.

    That category is tax payer funded TV stations that operate under a force pay license model. The BBC does not need advertising revenue, as everybody is forced to subscribe. It is politically biased, and everybody must fund it, even if they don't want to.

    Imagine if everybody in the US were all of a sudden forced to pay over $200 a year to fund a state TV station, and you couldn't opt out of it! You have to subscribe to it for life, until you drop dead! Every year, they would steal money from your pocket.

    The BBC license rate was about $228 last year. That is totally outrageous, and nobody should have a gun held to their head, forcing them to pay for biased content that they might not want at all.

    The BBC is a joke, and has been a joke for a long time now.

    I couldn't agree more.

    Its heyday was in the 70s and 80s, before its politicisation was complete, and when it actually made decent programmes.
  • Reply 19 of 83
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    kernapster wrote: »
    It was a really interesting documentary and since Apple sets guidelines for its supply chain as part of its corporate image, it was entirely valid for the BBC to put the test. Obviously it found its suppliers and manufactures had not met them. The question is really how much are these guidelines worth and whether they have an effect or if they are a veneer for people to feel better about the products they are buying. Corporate social responsibility is a bit of a scam. There is a certain amount of irony in seeing that the most productive form of capitalism on earth has happened in a communist country where it's populace has little political and personal rights. It was sad to see people living and working like battery hens to make a telephone. I question if most Americans would want the same for their own workers.

    Do you own a mobile phone or any other consumer electronic products? there's nothing more pathetic than all the liberal do-gooders complaining about evil corporations all the while typing on their MacBook Airs and texting on their iPhones. I wish people would put their money where their mouth is. If they think Apple is exploiting Chinese workers for profit then stop buying Apple products. Better yet, stop buying any gadgets manufactured in China. Of course if people did that these Chinese people would be even worse off as they'd have no jobs at all. But that's okay at least the liberal do-gooders would be able to sleep at night.
  • Reply 20 of 83
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,743member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Benjamin Frost View Post





    I couldn't agree more.



    Its heyday was in the 70s and 80s, before it's politicisation was complete, and when it actually made decent programmes.



    I enjoy watching certain UK programs, and the BBC has indeed produced many great things in the past. That doesn't excuse their extreme political bias of course.

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